Holiday horror reigns as one suburban family's strident quarreling not only quashes the true spirit of Christmas, but unleashes Santa's evil counterpart, a monster bent on annihilating the naughty. The titular fiend's rampage is triggered when an innocent lad (Emjay Anthony), driven to despair by the selfishness of his dysfunctional clan (led by Adam Scott and Toni Collette), renounces his previously staunch faith in St. Nicholas by tearing up his annual letter to the gift giver. The result is a blizzard of epic proportions that traps the boy's raucous relatives - including his gun-loving uncle (David Koechner) and ineffectual aunt (Allison Tolman) - as well as the good-hearted but melancholy German granny (Krista Stadler) from whom he inherited his trust in Kris Kringle inside his parents' home. There they make easy prey for the marauding Anticlaus and his minions. While avoiding any direct reference to Christianity, director and co-writer Michael Dougherty skewers the materialism that mars the season and promotes unity and self-sacrifice in the face of danger. But such values seem to be checked off by rote amid the chaotic logic of the film's nightmarish events, an ordeal that yields scanty rewards for viewers.

Watch out for: Brief gory images, considerable stylized violence, a visual drug reference, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, a single rough term, occasional crude and crass language.

Rated: A-III, adults; MPAA: PG-13, parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015